In the U.S., today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It is a day that we recognize the contributions that a well-educated Southern pastor made to the Civil Rights Movement here in the South.
Although Martin Luther King, Jr. was born almost 65 years after the end of the Civil War – a war fought primarily to end slavery in the South – there were still great chasms between the way whites and blacks were treated, especially in the South. However, Dr. King was opposed to violence and supported non-violent demonstrations to the customs of the time which segregated (or separated) the races in schools, churches, stores, restaurants, and almost anywhere else. It is because of his contribution – and unfortunately his martyrdom to this cause – that the relations between the races are better than they were.
But we still have a long way to go.
I am a white woman. I was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina after the McCrorey’s & Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins, but I have eaten at those lunch counters.
In 1960, black college students in Greensboro began sit-ins at white-only lunch counters. Friendship College students in Rock Hill joined the movement by demanding service at McCrory’s on Main Street. The “Friendship Nine” from Rock Hill were arrested and gained national attention from civil rights activists when they chose jail instead of bail. The Rock Hill Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in is pictured [above].” 1
I was only seven when Dr. King was killed by an assasin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennesee. I don’t remember much about his death. But I do remember when the schools were desegregated in Rock Hill. I was one of those who was bussed to a different elementary school. I remember the pain and uneasiness experienced by both races – feelings caused by fear, ignorance and even hatred.
But change breeds fear, ignorance and hatred. And there were those who hated Dr. King. Some called him an extremist. He made no apology for that; in fact, he agreed with them. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” addressed those criticisms.
“Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’
Was not Amos an extremist for justice: ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’
Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’
Was not Martin Luther an extremist: ‘Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.’
And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’
And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’
And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …'”2
Yes, Martin Luther King, Jr. was an extremist; he was an agent of change. He believed in it so much that paid for it with his life. But he was willing to pay that price because it was God’s will. Are we willing to be called an extremist – to give our life if the cause demands it – to do and to be what God wills?
If you want to read more of Dr. King’s speeches, go to this blog